His girlfriend was beginning to get annoyed with him, he says with a grin, because he’d started obsessing over the order of each track: “You wanna take someone on a journey. I feel like each song on the record has equal importance, so there isn’t a stand-out single.”
As he’s speaking, “Red House” by Jimi Hendrix starts to play on the speakers and he stops. “Man, this was the first song I ever learned. My first live performance, when I was 13, was this song.
Picking up on the album again, he adds that he hasn’t listened to it since it was finished. Memories is being distributed by Kartel, and he explains that part of the reason behind its delay was working out his departure from Syco.
“It took a lot of time,” he says. “I decided I wanted to leave probably a bit before my last tour, and once I finished I just said ‘I’m leaving’. The only thing was they spent a lot of money on me, so they came up with lots of ways they could be involved. But this is no disrespect to them – I just didn’t want to.
“I always think of it as like being in a relationship. You can be with someone for ages and not want to break up, because you think you have stuff in common. But once you’re out there you’re like, ‘s**t, that was a really toxic relationship’. So it took a long time, but I was really glad to finish it by myself.”
In 2017, Suleiman began to speak openly about how he had been dealing with issues of mental health – penning a piece for The Independent about his work with the London-based charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) which helped him through a series of difficult issues, both personal and professional.
He noticed the toll the music industry can take on an artist after experiencing a serious panic attack before a TV interview, and realised just how much stress he had been feeling. There are references to these struggles on the album, but they’re subtle, on tracks like the punchy “So Lost”, or the achingly beautiful “Not Giving Up”.
“As I’m getting older I realise I’m probably quite a sensitive guy,” Suleiman says with a laugh. “But all guys have these emotions. I think sometimes it might not be ‘cool’ to talk about certain things. It’s actually a lot easier to be open about them.”
He’s setting out on a headline tour this month, which will include dates at KOKO in London, Gorilla in Manchester, and the O2 Institute in Birmingham, and will also join rising pop star Anne-Marie on tour in Europe.
“I’ve played KOKO a couple of times but not as a headliner, so it’s definitely gonna be a moment,” he says. “I used to hammer stuff down people’s throats, and now I want the music to do the talking. See what the record does or doesn’t do then go off the back of that. Because I don’t know when I’ll do another headline tour.”
You’d be forgiven for thinking that, in the years since Jon Hopkins’ mesmerizing 2013 album, Immunity, the British producer has gone soft on us. His Late Night Tales collection from 2015 featured an elegant, piano-led coverof Yeasayer’s “I Remember,” and just a year before that, he contributed “extra magic” to the watery “Midnight,” from Coldplay’s execrable Ghost Stories. An accomplished composer whose résumé includes microscopic IDM, limited-press ambient releases, and collaborations with Brian Eno, Hopkins showcased a harder sound on Immunity—techno with a backbeat so thumping, it could trigger arrhythmia—and what little we’d heard from him since suggested that a kinder, gentler Jon Hopkins was on the horizon.
“Emerald Rush,” the first single from his forthcoming Singularity, doesn’t so much dispel those expectations as it does bludgeon them, persistently, like a pounding headache. And this one hurts so good: Whereas Immunity standout “Open Eye Signal” drew out its intensity, “Emerald Rush” puts the oomph front and center, folding in vocal coos and starry-night background noise as the intensity builds. It’s easy to try and sound tough, harder to nail a sense of restraint—but somehow, “Emerald Rush” does both. It’s a beautiful and unrelenting build of a track that packs a heavy rhythmic punch without smothering the pure melodic euphoria that lies just underneath it. Only someone with Hopkins’ compositional know-how could pull this off so effortlessly.
MGMT have released a new single, “Me and Michael,” as well as an accompanying video, just days before the debut of their fourth album Little Dark Age on February 9. The band has previously shared several songs from the new album, including “When You Die,” “Hand It Over,” and a title track. The band has also revealed that they collaborated with Connan Mockasin and Ariel Pink on Little Dark Age, and that it was produced by Chairlift’s Patrick Wimberly and longtime Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann. They are also going on tour in support of the new album.
According to an interview in Q Magazine, the new track is inspired by the band’s “shared love of European synth-pop,” and the original refrain was written as “me and my girl” before vocalist Andrew VanWyngarden decided it was too boring and changed it to “me and Michael.” The video for the song follows the band as they rise to success in an absurdist universe with meat phones and faceless talkshow hosts.
Last month, the brainy and prolific New York punk quartet Parquet Courts returned with a new single “Almost Hard To Start A Fight/In And Out Of Patience,” an excerpt from a forthcoming album called Wide Awake!. One of the details that jumped out was that the group had opted to hire Danger Mouse as their producer, which raised some questions about how their particular disposition could mesh with his pop inclinations; for his part, co-frontman Andrew Savage liked the idea of him bringing his new material “indebted to punk and funk” to a collision with Brian Burton’s polished sensibilities. And, a bit of funkiness might’ve made sense, given who they were teaming with.
But that lead single, though great enough to rank as one of our favorite songs of that week, was certainly not funky. Its split personality was that of a punk rager giving way to a twitchy, fried rocker — if anything, it recalled Parquet Courts’ early glories on Light Up Gold.
Well, get ready to find out what funky Parquet Courts sounds like.
Today, the band is back with another preview of Wide Awake! in the form of its title track. There have been slight stylistic modulations throughout Parquet Courts’ career, but perhaps nothing as out of left field as “Wide Awake!” I mean, this song goes there: Its defining feature is a hyperactive, syncopated beat with rubbery bass and chicken-scratch guitar periodically locking in with it. And there are whistles. Throughout, the band all sings together in a way that’s stuck somewhere between punk gang vocals and cathartic funk singalongs. It’s almost a shame that the band is sharing it as an advance single despite its mission statement status — trust me, the first time you’re listening through the album and this comes on, it’s sort of a wild moment!
“Wide Awake!” is also accompanied by a video directed by Brother Willis. It features Parquet Courts, each of them decked out in a purple tuxedo, messing around in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. It’s inherently colorful and a pretty fun — after all, “go party in NOLA for Mardi Gras” seems like a pretty decent prompt for a video project. At the end of the clip, each of the band members are introduced by vintage font like an old-school movie opening, before a “To be continued … ” appears on the screen, so maybe there’s a sequel waiting out there or maybe it’s just tongue-in-cheek.